The state's only AIDS service organization is suspending its free HIV testing program due to a $60,000 cut in federal funding.
Wendy LeBlanc, the assistant director of the Southern New Hampshire HIV/AIDS Task Force, said CDC has restructured its grants, with funds being targeted to areas heavily affected by HIV. States like New Hampshire, where case reports are lower, are seeing less federal money, she said.
"We know that funding is being cut everywhere," LeBlanc said. "But we lost a staff person, which is going to be a big challenge for us." In addition to conducting HIV tests, that full-time staffer provided risk-reduction counseling.
The testing costs about $5,000 a year, said LeBlanc, but an additional $50,000 is needed to provide case management and other services for existing clients. The task force conducts about 50 free, confidential HIV tests a year, not a large number, LeBlanc acknowledged. Yet most screened individuals "have no health insurance and live at or below the poverty level," and likely would not be tested if they had to visit a physician or buy a test kit, she said.
While the task force is intensifying its fundraising in the hope of resuming free testing, it also will apply for additional grants and seek individual and corporate support, LeBlanc said. In September, it will host its annual Thomas O. Cash Walk-a-thon, which raised about $5,000 in 2011. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, telephone LeBlanc at 603-595-8464, ext. 15.
Also: Nashua will mark National HIV Testing Day by offering free testing 3-6 p.m. Wednesday at its Community Health Clinic, 18 Mulberry St.; telephone 603-589-4500.
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